Posted on Leave a comment

Why 70% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within one month.


Don’t wait until New Year’s – set goals now.

People who make New Year’s resolutions are usually those who are least motivated to follow through with their plans. They have already procrastinated by saying they will leave any changing until the New Year. If they were really committed to lose weight or stop smoking or write a book or save money or whatever, they would have started when they made the decision. There’s nothing magical about New Year’s or any other date. And yet now that we’re into the second half of the year, already there are people telling themselves, “Next year I will…”

M.J. Ryan, in her book This Year I Will (Broadway Books, New York, 2006) claims you really have to want to change. The motivation comes first and then the self-discipline. In her book, she quotes statistics that approximately 45% of us make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% succeed. According to Mike Sion, writing in Woman’s Day magazine, almost 25% of those people making New Year’s resolutions lose their momentum after one week.

Back in 1993 a St. Petersburg Times article reported on a study conducted in 1988 that tracked 200 people who made New Year’s resolutions. Within a month, 55% had abandoned their resolutions. At the end of two years, only 19% had kept their promises.

Studies seem to indicate that from 35% to 70% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within one month. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and make ourselves a lot of promises that we are not committed to keeping. We really haven’t thought through the sacrifices or effort that might be required.

David Niven, author of The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People (HarperOne, 2000) agrees that motivation has a great deal to do with the attainment of goals. He says that those who do not feel they are taking steps towards their goals are five times more likely to give up and three times less likely to feel satisfied with their lives. He claims that people who construct their goals in concrete terms are 50% more likely to feel confident that they will attain their goals and 32% more likely to feel in control of their lives. So motivation and the way you go about setting goals go hand in hand.

That’s one of the things that make New Year’s resolutions difficult to achieve. They are simply weak attempts at goal setting. They seldom are reduced to writing, and have no deadline date for instance. A goal without a deadline is like a check without a signature. If they are going to write a book, or clean the basement or lose ten pounds or save $5000, there must be a time frame added.

Joy Browne, writing in the March 18, 2007 issue of Parade, urges us to avoid New Year’s – type resolutions. She claims people should set personal goals according to their own internal timetable and stay clear of the type of goals traditionally made at the start of the year. She further states that those recurring unmet goals such as lose weight, stop smoking, get fit, and spend more time with the family focus exclusively on the negative.

It’s difficult enough to develop self-discipline without being wishy-washy. New Year’s resolutions are frequently unrealistic and not even measurable, Self-discipline is continuing to do something whether we feel like it or not. It goes against our natural tendency to take the path of least resistance. Our natural inclination is to seek pleasure and avoid pain – and working towards goals can sometimes be quite unpleasant. Especially if we have a goal to lose weight or exercise or complete some arduous task.

New Year’s resolutions have an exceptionally high failure rate because most of them lack the characteristics of effective goals:


Posted on Leave a comment

Sleep is a new time management strategy for the digital age of speed

sleep- time management strategy

sleep- time management strategy

An old handheld device for managing time – a pillow.

An older strategy was to sleep one hour less and get more done. The newer strategy is the exact opposite: sleep one hour more and get more done.

In the years that intervened, as Daniel Levinson expresses in his book, The organized mind, it has been shown by research that sleep is among the critical factors for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function and mood regulation. And the average individual gets at least one hour less sleep today than he or she did 50 years ago.

The expectation of individuals that they should sleep soundly for seven or eight hours prompts many to seek out sleeping pills, which have been shown to be addictive and have side effects – including interference with memory  consolidation – and cause them to be drowsy and unrested in the morning. The National sleep Foundation reports that 25% of Americans take some form of sleep medication every night.

In one study, sleeping pills only allowed individuals to sleep 11 minutes longer a night, and poor quality sleep at that. And according to literature on the topic of sleeping pills, it appears that the risks outweigh any benefits. One study, reported in the BMJ open Journal, found that regular sleeping pill users were 4.6 times likelier to die prematurely.

Thomas Wehr, a scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, showed that without artificial light, people tend to fall asleep about two hours after the room goes dark, sleep for about four hours, stay awake for an hour or two, and then sleep for another four hours. Whether you take two minutes or two hours to fall asleep, it’s still normal. Not everyone has the same sleep cycle, and it’s the amount of time you sleep, not the amount of time you spend in bed, that is critical.

Seven hours of sleep a night is considered to be a healthy minimum and anything less them six hours is considered to be sleep deprivation – along with its adverse effects. One of these effects is to leave you with less energy, and less likely to perform at your peak, and therefore less productive.

If you value your health, your time, and your personal productivity, you should also value your sleep – and you should see it as an important strategy in getting more accomplished in the time at your disposal. Sleeping off the job will keep you from sleeping on the job.

Since adequate sleep also has a bearing on your longevity, it could very well increase the time at your disposal as well.

Posted on Leave a comment

Gaining control of your time can impact health and longevity

gain control of your life

gain control of your life

Organization is an indication of control

According to Daniel Gilbert, in his book, Stumbling on Happiness (Random House, NY, 2007) at the root of most stress is the feeling of being out of control. I’m sure you know the feeling if you have ever been stuck in traffic, or waiting in a long line or suddenly told that the unrealistic deadline on your project has suddenly become more unrealistic.

People have a natural inclination to control events and make things happen. Losing control makes them unhappy and stressed.

Here’s an example. In a nursing home, the elderly residents were given a houseplant. Half of them were told they were to control the care and feeding of the plant while the other half were told that someone on staff would look after the plant. Within 6 months, 30% of the residents in the low control group had died, compared with only 15% of those who were in control. (Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, Random House, 2007.)

Another study had student volunteers visit nursing home residents on a regular basis. Some residents were allowed to decide when the student was to come in and how long he or she stayed. The others were not given that option. The student just popped in. After 2 months, residents with control were happier, healthier, more active, and taking fewer medications than those in the low control group.

Gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being. But when the researchers had finished their study and all visits stopped, there were more deaths among the high control group than the low control group, showing that losing control once you’ve had it can be worse than never having had control in the first place.

This could be related to disorganized people whose houses or offices are in a shambles and yet are happier than organized people whose lives are disrupted by sudden changes in environment, workload, and interruptions that move them into a disorganized state.

Those who don’t rush through the day in a panic, but pace themselves and work efficiently, actually survive longer according to Matthew Edlund, author of The Body Clock Advantage. (Adams Media, 2003.) These people usually have routines for going to bed and rising at the same times every day, exercise and eating. They control their work versus letting their work determine when they go home, go to bed or exercise.

Mental clutter is just as stressful as physical clutter. Writing things down and having a plan to get them done unclutters your mind, relieves anxiety, eliminates the fear of forgetting and makes you feel better.

Ken Blanchard in the book, The One Minute Manager Balances Life & Work, (HarperCollins, 2004) made the comment that we should never put our health at risk in order to gain more money. Otherwise, he claimed, in later years we’ll be spending even more money in an attempt to regain our health.

Other authors also have stated that losing control affects health and productivity. Stefan Klein, for instance, in his book The Secret Pulse of Time, said that stress originates in a surrender of control.

People who lose control of their time end up sacrificing exercise, regular medical checkups, leisure activities, relaxation, and healthy eating habits. Keeping well is easier and more time effective than getting well.

Healthy activities such as exercise, relaxation and leisure time should be scheduled in your planner if necessary, along with your priorities and major activities and events. If you don’t, the time in your planner may become filled with work-related activities and you may spiral out of control.




Posted on Leave a comment

Increasing the efficiency of meetings

Increasing the efficiency of meetings

 Increasing the efficiency of meetings

The 60-minute modular meeting & rule of seven 

Deadlines make us more efficient without detracting from the effectiveness of our meetings. To minimize the impact of Parkinson’s Law (activities expanding to fill the time allowed for them) try breaking all your meetings into one-hour modules. Most meetings can’t be completed in their entirety in one hour. Others may need several one-hour modules. But outlaw open-ended meetings that have a long list of agenda items and no timeframes. They invariably consume more time than necessary.

Draw up an agenda with the 80/20 Rule in mind. (20% of the items on the agenda represent 80% of the value that will be obtained from the meeting.) The first one-hour module contains the most significant items. The second one-hour module, if one is needed, contains more items, but of less importance. If a third hour is needed, group all the remaining items into this one-hour module.

By doing this, the amount of time spent on agenda items is proportional to the importance of the items, rather than by the number of items discussed.  You have also prioritized the order of business, and have built in deadlines – which will further   increase efficiency.

All the personal anecdotes, news, reviews, and shaggy dog stories can be left until after the meeting, and limited to those people with nothing better to do with their time.

You might also streamline your meetings more by using the “Rule of Seven.” People development specialist Terry Patten mentioned in his newsletter how you might decide on the right number of people to have a good meeting. According to the new book, Decide and Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough and Performance in your Organization, once you have seven people in a decision-making group, every additional person reduces effectiveness by 10 percent.